New faces are always matriculating into the BYU football program and in a variety of ways. Whether it’s the typical high school newcomer, a transfer, or players coming back from serving two-year LDS missions, keeping up to speed with the players coming and going out of BYU can be a difficult juggling act.
Head coach Kalani Sitake enters his second season as BYU’s head man and he’s looking to improve off the successful 9-4 campaign he had after taking over his alma mater.
One of Sitake’s biggest challenges has been improving the depth at BYU. The Cougars unofficially have 25 new scholarship players that will be on the roster this season.
Let’s take a deeper look at five of those players that you will need to watch for this fall.
Chaz Ah You, DB, True Freshman
Ah You made a splash on National Signing Day, announcing his commitment to BYU via a helicopter landing video. Defensive coordinator Ilaisa Tuiaki is now looking for Ah You to make an even bigger impact this fall on the field as the Cougars look to replace Kai Nacua at safety. A four-star prospect out of local Timpview High in Provo, Ah You was a “man among boys” at the high school level according to Tuiaki.
Ula Tolutau, RB, True Freshman/Returning LDS Missionary
Once a Wisconsin signee out of East High School in Salt Lake City back in 2014, Tolutatu immediately served an LDS mission and never played a single down for the Badgers. At the time, Gary Andersen was the head coach in Madison. When Tolutau returned home from his mission this past fall he wanted a change of scenery just like Andersen. Tolutau is a bruising running back who averaged 12 yards per carry his senior year in high school. He will compete right away as BYU looks to have a committee of running backs to replace the production of all-time leading rusher Jamaal Williams.
Taipe “John” Vaka, OL, Junior College Transfer
Under Sitake, BYU is taking a back to the future approach with the offensive line. BYU used to be synonymous with massive offensive lines under the late LaVell Edwards. Sitake wants that again at BYU and junior college transfer Taipe “John” Vaka fits, or rather fills, that billing at 6—foot-5 and 285 pounds.
Vaka will have an opportunity to compete for the starting left tackle spot, but also could swing inside at guard if needed. Vaka was once committed to Oregon but flipped his commitment and signed with BYU this past December during the mid-year signing period.
Will Sedgwick, LB, True Freshman/Returning LDS Missionary
BYU didn’t recruit many linebackers in the class of 2017 for a variety reasons. The staff likes the current personnel and they want more defensive linemen moving forward as they continue to transition from a 3-4 look under Bronco Mendenhall to the 4-3 system preferred by Sitake. However, one newcomer at linebacker will make an immediate impact and that’s Sedgwick.
Sedwick committed to BYU nearly four years ago out of Laguna Hills, California, before going on a two-year mission. A tackling machine from the inside linebacker spot, BYU’s switch to a 4-3 defense will suit Sedgwick’s talents nicely.
Lorenzo Fauatea, DL, True Freshman
Out of Hunter High in West Valley City, Utah, Fauatea was once committed to Oregon State before ultimately signing with BYU on National Signing Day. In his career at Hunter, Fauatea played on both lines and rarely took a play off.
Fauatea could play off the edge or in the interior of BYU’s defensive front when he arrives this summer. He is an underrated prospect that possesses excellent footwork that will give him an opportunity to play right away.
— Written by Mitch Harper, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network. Harper is publisher of Rivals' BYU site, CougarNation.com, and also is the BYU reporter and insider for 1320 KFAN and co-host of "The Cougar Center" podcast. Follow him on Twitter @Mitch_Harper.